The toilet, the commode, the porcelain throne . . it’s an everyday necessity but it’s also an easy, amazingly effective, and yet often overlooked labor tool.
In pregnancy, as morning (i.e. anytime) sickness and constipation set in, your relationship to the toilet may be unpleasant or frustrating. In labor, the toilet can be your best friend.
As your doula, I am going to remind you frequently to drink water. Labor is called labor for a reason; it’s hard, physical work, and staying hydrated during any physical activity is important. Even if you are laboring in bed, your body is working hard to bring your baby down. Water and other liquids are essential in labor.
Staying hydrated also means that you will have to go to the bathroom often to relieve your bladder. This is helpful in labor because:
I always ask clients when going to the bathroom to stay there for a few contractions, or as long as they can. Contractions do feel more intense on the toilet, which is good for labor but more focus is needed to deal with the intensity. Sometimes labors that have "stalled" for a length of time see renewed progress when clients utilize the toilet.
I will gladly help you labor in the bathroom, making suggestions like circling your hips, holding onto me or your partner, or straddling the toilet seat backwards so you can steady yourself on the toilet tank or against the wall. Any awkwardness about having others join you in what is usually a private place often disappears as labor progresses.
If you start to feel the urge to poop while laboring on the toilet, that can be a sign that baby is engaged in the birth canal and you might be ready to push. Some care providers are comfortable with you beginning to push or birthing your baby in the bathroom, and some would prefer you move to another location or position. Because the toilet is such an effective laboring tool, you might hear your care provider or the staff repeatedly "warn" you to let them know if you feel the need to poop when going to the bathroom.
So embrace the toilet! (Even literally).
I am a certified labor doula (birth doula) and professional postpartum doula serving clients in Boise, Meridian, Eagle, and the greater Treasure Valley.
Are you interested in doula support your birth?
As a doula, my kids are exposed to a lot of Birth talk. They ask questions about what I do, but I don't always know how much they have retained. Then one day over a year ago we were driving around and I heard the following exchange between my then 9 year old son and 6 year old daughter:
Daughter: A baby can come out of the woman's vagina or they can cut it out of the mom's belly.
Son: You mean a C-Section. Or, what's that other word, Mom?
Me: A Cesarean.
Son: Yeah, a Cesarean. But usually vaginal is better for the mom and the baby because the Cesarean is major surgery.
Daughter: Yeah, I'm going to have my babies born through my vagina.
The conversation didn't go much further than that. What struck me at the time was how comfortable they were with talking about birth, vaginal or otherwise. Perhaps because of what I do, in our family we make a point to use proper names for body parts; the vagina is different from the cervix and the vulva. The baby grows in a "belly," but they know that it's actually in the uterus.
The comfort my husband and I share regarding the facts and process of birth, has led us to share information about sex and development in an age-appropriate way with that same level of comfort. Recently I accompanied my son to a school-facilitated boys' puberty class. There were the expected dramatics-- giggles, groans, and feigned screams of horror at the mention of a girl's period-- but the factual manner in which my son absorbed the material made space for more than the facts. Because this information was not new to him, extended conversations about feelings and expectations of his own development were possible.
My daughter has added "doula or midwife" to her list of what she wants to be when she grows up (along with professional soccer player, teacher, and puppy rescuer). She asks a lot of birth-related questions, usually during bath time or right before bed. She asks, and I answer factually. If she asks further, we go further. Aside from facts, our conversations have gone deeper than I would have ever imagined at this age. One day she asked, "What if the woman wants to have sex but the man doesn't?" Internally giggling, I answered, "Both people need to want to have sex or else sex doesn't happen." Just like that, we began a rudimentary conversation about consent.
Birth creates an opportunity to have these conversations, with our own kids, and with ourselves. Many of us did not grow up in households where sex or birth were discussed as normal events, or they weren't discussed at all. If birth was discussed, it was in negative terms, focused on pain, or bad moods, or absent and neglectful partners, or complications. Instead of pain and shame, we need to hear stories of perseverance and pride.
It's normal and common to poop during pushing? Maybe we can let go of anxiety around that. The muscles of the vagina and pelvic floor stretch for birth? Maybe we can stop worrying about our vagina "never being the same." You had a 3/12/24/48 hour labor that ended in unmedicated vaginal/emergency Cesarean birth? Maybe we can praise ourselves for facing our fears and challenges to the best of our abilities, and let go of the rest.
Our views of our own bodies can affect the way we give birth. We might consider birthing in a different way than our parents or friends. We may take more care in choosing a care provider that respects our preferences for birth, who values and practices informed consent with their patients. Our relationships may be strengthened through pregnancy and birth, as we marvel in the bodies of our partners and their role in creating new life.
The kids we raise will benefit from our positive feelings about our bodies and our births. The child exposed to breastfeeding as a normal, non-shameful way to feed a baby may have an easier time in her own breastfeeding journey, or may be more supportive to a future breast-feeding partner.
When we know what our bodies can do, we take ownership of our births.
Birth is normalized. Shame loses its power.
When we are body positive, we can positively birth.
During my first day of doula training I knew what I wanted to name my new business. I didn’t spend a long time thinking about it; the name just popped into my head. True to my personality, I began to dissect the reasons why that name wasn’t right, and I forced myself to think of other business names.
But I kept coming back to Elevated Birth— or rather, it would not release its foothold on my mind. I listened to my intuition, accepted my new business name, and took the proper steps to make it official.
As I worked to build a website, design marketing materials, and “hang my shingle” so to speak, I chose the following words to explain what I could offer to prospective clients:
“Know your options. Feel supported. Elevate your Birth.”
But what does this really mean? The role of a doula is to educate and support; it's what doulas do.
What these words speak to, is the importance of YOU in our relationship.
Know your Options
I don’t teach childbirth education, not yet anyway— although that is on the horizon. I can help explain different physiological processes in birth and I can provide details on various procedures and interventions.
But when we discuss your options in pregnancy and childbirth, we go a bit deeper. We talk about how you may feel about a particular choice. How does that option align with what is important to you and your partner? What could we try, to avoid or prolong the need for a particular intervention? What kind of discussions could you have with your care provider to negotiate your options? How can you process a change in plans? What does and doesn't work for you?
We also go into detail about how your choices can affect not only the birth process, but also your postpartum experience. Questions arise and they are answered as thoroughly and as personally as you need. Information is tailored to get you through birth so that the needs of you and your partner are met.
Perhaps during our discussions you realize that your priorities and preferences have changed. That happens. Maybe during labor an unexpected situation arises— you have someone in the room to guide you through the decision making process. You know your options so you can decide what is best for you, and with that knowledge comes confidence in your decision making.
Birth is very much a physiological process. But it is just as much an emotional one, and the physical and emotional go hand in hand.
Physical support in labor takes on many forms. Depending on how your birth is going and what your preferences are, I am going to recommend certain positions and environments over others. When there is a change, I’m going to recommend something else. I’m always watching what’s going on, assessing your needs, and thinking of the next step or goal. I’m bringing your partner into the process, or maybe I'm recommending they take a break. You are both supported.
What emotional support looks like to one person is different than what it looks like to another. Some people need more gentleness and some need higher energy. Some need both but at different times. What you may need can also change from one moment to the next. I use the example that I can be rubbing your neck in labor and it is just what you need, and literally the next second it is the last thing on earth you want. It’s okay— you are accepted as you are.
That’s another form of support. I am not judging you; in fact, I’m embracing you! No matter what you choose for yourself, how you birth your baby, how you cope with labor, or how you and your partner interact or don’t— I’m here for you. I’ll help you. And I’m happy to do it.
Elevate your Birth
This has so many meanings. It’s both an action and a result. YOU are the principal player in elevating your birth; I am just the facilitator.
You elevate your birth when you make the effort to prepare for it. Birth is not something that just happens to you. You are giving it the eminence it deserves by educating yourself, surrounding yourself with support, and preparing your own body and mind for it.
Your support team will elevate YOU. Your partner and I will support you as you need, from holding your hands to holding space. We will lift you up so you can be free to let go.
Others will see your birth as elevated. You know what matters to you, so others involved in your birth are more likely to see you as an autonomous being and treat you with the respect you deserve. Your positive birth experience may inspire someone else to fear birth less, or to consider new options or attitudes about birth.
Your birth may elevate the way you see yourself. When you feel positively about your birth, it shows in other areas of your life. You may approach non-birth issues with more strength, grace, and confidence. The way you see yourself as a parent or as a partner can be impacted by the way you see yourself in birth. You can use what you learned in birth to help you in business, interpersonal relationships, with coping skills, and so much more.
Your birth experience is a part of your life’s journey. Choose to elevate it.
I've worked in the forest, in the lab, and in an office cubicle. My favorite and most passionate work has been alongside clients as they reach inside to find their innermost strength, and give birth to their babies. Each birth is an honor to witness.